Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Celebrating Summer at Gas Works

6/10/19 Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park is my go-to when warm weather finally arrives. Of course, I’ve sketched there in all seasons and weather, including rain and surprising sunshine, but in the summer, my favorite park represents the best of Seattle. It’s one of our favorite places to bring out-of-town visitors. Lake Union, a marina, the Space Needle-centered skyline, grassy Kite Hill, those steampunkish gas works – I never run out of things to sketch.

The afternoon that I sketched this, it was 73 degrees with a typical lake breeze, and the sky was nearly cloud-free. Hallelujah – at long last, summer is here!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Product Review: Pentel Pocket Brush Pens (and Weaning Myself of Grisaille)

Gray and brown Pentel Pocket Brush Pens

For more than a year now, I’ve been using various markers, most often Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pens, to serve as a grisaille with colored pencils. (See my tutorial on this method.) The gray marker tones establish the values, and I then color over the grisaille with colored pencils. If the marker is waterproof (as Pitt pens are), I can then choose to activate watercolor pencils if I want to.

Recently I’ve been trying to wean myself of relying so heavily on the marker grisaille and instead learn to convey values directly with colored pencil hues. The biggest challenge is the darkest (near-black) value, which is difficult to achieve with colored pencils alone, especially on location (with limited time and other constraints). I consider myself still in transition: I use a marker grisaille now only for the darkest value until I figure out a better way to achieve this. A second issue is that I’ve never cared for the streaky, “marker-y” look I get with Pitt pens (or any hard-edged marker).

I got excited a couple of months ago when Roz Stendahl reviewed new colors in Pentel Pocket Brush Pens – gray and sepia. I’ve been using a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen with black ink for years (it was included in my review of seven “hairy” brush pens several years ago), and it’s one of my favorites. The synthetic bristles hold up well, even under my heavy hand, and the ink is easily refillable with cartridges or fountain pen ink. The brush pen containing dark gray ink that Roz showed seemed like an interesting alternative to a hard-edged marker, especially if it was waterproof. I decided to give the sepia a try, too. (I got mine from Wet Paint, which seems to be one of few stores carrying both new colors. I’ve just recently seen both on Amazon, too.)

The pens have the same fountain-pen-like body (above) as the original black. The only indication of the ink color is the end of the cap (which I appreciate when I store them cap end up in my bag) and the narrow center band.

Bristle brush tips

Like the original, the brush tips are very flexible bristle brushes (not formed felt or other fibrous materials) that can produce a wide range of line widths. (See Roz’s blog for beautiful drawings that take full advantage of the brush effects.)
A wide line variation

After waiting about five minutes, I put a waterbrush through the thickest part of my scribbles. The gray ink was nearly waterproof, but the sepia bled considerably. After another hour, the inks still bled the same. The gray is acceptably waterproof for my purposes because the little bleeding won’t alter colors substantially. I’ll still use the sepia when I want an ink that washes, but I probably won’t use it as a grisaille.
Washed with water after about 5 minutes. Scribbles made in Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook.

Shown below are several recent sketches (most of which youve seen previously) that include the gray Pentel. The ink stays wet on the paper’s surface just long enough for the edges to blend a little, which reduces the marker-y look that I want to avoid. I really like using the tiny brush tip to achieve fine lines and marks, which I’m not able to get with a Pitt brush marker (which starts out sharp when new but mushes down fairly quickly under my heavy handedness). Conversely, if I lay it down on its broad side, the brush can make a wide stroke. It takes a little practice to handle a bristle brush instead of a marker, but I’ve always preferred the versatility and organic line of an actual brush to the more graphic look of markers.

Until I wean myself completely of the grisaille method, the gray Pentel is my pen of choice.




5/30/19 I used the Pentel brush pen only on the darkest shadows. The shading on the yellow parts of the
excavator was done with a gray colored pencil acting as a grisaille under the yellow.

4/30/19 In this sketch, I used the Pentel brush pen both for shading and to draw the foreground tree branches.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fremont Bridge and the Rocket

6/15/19 Fremont Bridge

As many times as I’ve sketched in the Fremont neighborhood, I’ve done the historic Fremont Bridge only once, and it was years ago. With USk Seattle’s sketch outing centered on the Lake Washington Ship Canal area, it was high time to sketch it again. This time I climbed partway up the stairway, which put my eye level just below the bridge deck with a good view of the bright blue and orange towers. According to Wikipedia, “due to its low vessel clearance of 30 feet, the Fremont Bridge opens an average of 35 times a day, which makes it the most frequently opened drawbridge in the United States and one of the busiest bascule bridges in the world.” No wonder Fremont is the Center of the Universe. Even as I sketched this, the drawbridge opened twice. One of these days I need to sketch it open, though I’d have to be quick – it stays open for only a few minutes at a time.

Another Fremont icon that I’ve sketched only once before is the Rocket. Last time, I stood right in its shadow with the benefit of strong sunlight. On this overcast morning, I didn’t feel like sketching a light gray rocket against a light gray sky, so my vermilion/Prussian Blue editing pencil came to the rescue. (To those unfamiliar with the Center of the Universe, it probably looks like a church steeple.) Just as I was lamenting the empty spot near the center of the composition, a huge truck came by to unload a delivery to a nearby merchant. It stayed just long enough for me to fill the boring space with its girth.

Despite the chilly morning, it was great to see the strong turnout in Fremont with several new faces!

The sun finally came out for the throwdown!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Downtown in Maple Leaf

6/9/19 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Although I’ve lived in Maple Leaf for more than 30 years and drive on this street occasionally, I walk on it far less often. Street views always look different on foot. When I’m driving, I must attend to not crashing, so I miss things, like the downtown skyline just above the treeline. Out walking on a quiet Sunday afternoon, the city view caught me by surprise.

Technical note: In a recent alley sketch, I impulsively tried adding yellow to the red and blue I’ve been experimenting with, and it didn’t seem quite right. This time I was more deliberate in my addition of yellow to represent the near-lightest values. I don’t use yellow much as an abstract color, so it was fun, and I like using the three primaries together. What do you think? Is yellow an interesting addition?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sun Break at Freeway Park

6/8/19 Freeway Park
6/8/19 Ellie giving a demo

Ellie Doughty taught “Dry Air,” her new USk Seattle 10x10 workshop, last Saturday, so I popped in briefly to see how things were going. Rain was predicted that morning, so she had wisely changed her workshop location from a park to the Convention Center, where the floor-to-ceiling windows offer excellent views of downtown. I was going to take advantage of one of those views myself, but – wouldn’t you know it? The whole day was dry!

After a quick sketch of Ellie, I couldnt resist going out to adjacent Freeway Park, where the sun was darting in and out of clouds. Although the park doesn’t offer the high views of the city that the Convention Center does, its maze of walls and lush trees and plantings are eye-catching in a different way. Just then, the sun broke through a patch of clouds, and I spotted a play of light and shadow through the trees.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Urban Palette

6/5/19 Maple Leaf neighborhood

On my walk through the ‘hood, I heard a lot of noise near the Ace Hardware store, so I went to see what was going on. It was yet another hole in the ground and another excavator – but this time, a cement mixer was also on the scene. It backed up several feet before I could finish all those wheels, but I got most of it.

Sometimes other sketchers complain that the typical urban palette is nothing but grays and browns. I don’t know – I seem to have no problem finding yellow, orange and red!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

June Gloom

6/1/19 Wedgwood neighborhood

I first heard the expression “June Gloom” when I was visiting L.A. It’s a weather pattern marked by foggy or overcast skies and cool temperatures during the late spring and early summer. The weather people here like the term, too. The fog usually burns off around noon, but it starts to dissipate gradually long before that, so on this morning I headed over to Wedgwood early. The dips and rises in that neighborhood’s hills seem to emphasize the varying distances of the trees, which make them fun to draw in fog.

I had a feeling the car could disappear before I finished, but I could see that the fog was starting to thin, too. I had to make a choice.

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